Why I hate Creative Commons

November 27, 2005 at 10:39 PM | categories: uncategorized | View Comments

Did I get your attention? No, Creative Commons is not evil, and I don't actually hate them.

First of all, let me clarify my position. I fully support anyone licencing anything they create in whatever manner they choose. I don't care whether they charge $1 Million and require that I only use the work while jumping on one foot. I won't agree to that particular licence (and therefore I won't aquire the privilege of using the work), but I fully support that persons right to licence it that way. They should also be just as free to give all their rights away and release something to the public domain. Or, they should be able to do anything that's in the middle of those two extremes. That's just the way a free society should opperate.

The problem I have is this: I've had people recommend to me in the past to release some of my work in a "Creative Commons license". What the hell does that even mean!? Just take a look for yourself on their Licences page.

Here they are, all THIRTEEN of the current Creative Commons licences (there are other, albeit deprecated licences too):

So, it really is utterly meaningless to suggest to someone that they consider a Creative Commons licence. Every Licence is different. On the contrary, when I suggest to someone to use the GPL for releasing software. There is no ambiguity. Even if that person has no idea what the GPL is about, if they search Google for "GPL" ... they are only going to find one license. Actually, I just lied. There is another reference to the GPL on the first couple of hits on google. It's the Creative Commons GNU GPL. Yes.. I know it's the same thing. But it sure sounds like it's different. Adding "Creative Commons" to the front of the GNU GPL and adding some cute little logo for it make it sound like it is a derivitive licence, when in fact it's not. Granted, if someone who has never heard of the GPL before finds it through Creative Commons, that's great! On the other hand, it could also be very confusing for that person.

It seems to me that although Creative Commons has good intentions for proliferating free exchange, as evidenced by their outline of Baseline Rights and Restrictions, the end result is that they are really just poplularizing the idea of licencing in general. I know some bloggers that release under the Creative Commons just so they can slap another button on their site. If you currently have something covered by a Creative Commons licence, I am not asking you to revoke that licence for future work, I would just urge you to think about your reasons for the particular licence you chose to release under.

In the end it's not really Creative Commons fault. It's the user's fault. Stop recommending that I use a "Creative Commons" licence. If you feel that a particular licence is a good one, let me know, and tell me why, I'll listen to you, and possibly even agree. But they are not all the same and they don't all reach the same goal. There is literally an entire political spectrum covered by the many Creative Commons licences.

Creative Commons truley is great for a number of reasons. I don't want to have to write a fully legal licence for something. I have neither the time nor the knowledge. Creative Commons gives me an easy repository to go to find licences that I would possibly agree with. That's really the proper perspective to take with them. They are a repository of various licences, not a pillar of enlightened thinking. I may choose to use a Creative Commons licence in the future, but I won't be adding a cute little button to my site. Buttons are for telling people "Hey, these are things I BELIEVE in and you should too!" ... Creative Commons is just not something that one can believe in.

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